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JOEL Joel's Blog

Our New Shellac Video, Shellac availability, and Temporary Stoppage of International Shipping


We are very pleased to point you all in the direction of Eddie O'Donnell's new video on shellac and French polishing. Over the years we've heard again and again that folks were intrigued by shellac (a wonderful finish that can be just brushed one or rubbed to a brilliant, water clear, French polish) but were too intimidated to try. Eddie has helped demystify Osmo for many people so we knew he could provide great guidance on shellac as well This new video starts with the basics for anyone who has never used shellac, and ends with a large practical section on French polishing.

Click here for a direct link to the shellac video and all our videos.

Thank you Eddie for an important contribution about this wonderful and traditional finish.

This allows us to segue into an important point about shellac availability. As one of the leading retailers and importers of shellac in the US, we import our regular BT&C shellac directly from India. We have been told that this year's crop failed and prices have zoomed up. Worldwide shipping has also substantially increased and we still need to fly our supply in to ensure freshness and proper treatment. We don't know what will happen to the retail prices yet, but expect increases. Our premium grade of shellac, Tiger Flakes, which is refined in Germany, is also going up in cost in the next few months.

If you are tempted to stock up, please bear in mind that over time flake shellac does go bad, and when you get the shellac, store it in a sealed glass jar kept in a refrigerator. You can also just take the plastic bag we ship it in, put that in a sealed glass jar, and stick that in the fridge. The plastic bag is good for short-term storage, but is permeable to oxygen so we don't recommend it for long term.

The rest of of this blog entry has nothing to do with woodworking, the history of woodworking or any woodworking-related topic other than getting woodworking products to you. It's about practical logistics.

Last week we were forced to stop shipping internationally. We are not happy about this decision and we are actively trying to address the concerns that forced the decision. Here is the issue: we have always enjoyed a direct relationship with customers around the world. Internationally we always have shipped via the United States Postal Service and until late last spring service was acceptable. This is no longer true. Packages were taking weeks longer for delivery or not showing up at all. Conversations with USPS did not inspire confidence that this problem would be solved anytime soon. We could not expect customers to wait for a missing package, nor could we continue to send out replacements for those AWOL shipments. So we decided we had no choice but shut down international shipping while we explored alternatives.

We are now implementing upgrades to our shipping software to use FedEx for most of the countries we regularly ship to. Pricing will be pretty good, and while there might be some odd duty charges on your end service is much much more reliable. Domestic shipping costs will be unaffected by this development.

I'm the guy writing the code to make all of this happen and with luck we should be ready to go in the next couple of weeks.
Join the conversation
03/24/2021 Joe Maday
If stored in a fridge, in a glass jar, How long could one expect is to be "good". and if the fridge is good for storage, how about in a freezer?
I've kept both Tiger and BT&C flakes in a screw top plastic container that has a rubber seal, which I purchased from "The Container Store", just sitting on the shelf in the shop. Some varieties/colors are 4 -5 years old and they behave fine.....I have over the years used many brand shellac flakes and feel that the Tiger Flakes are the best.
I have some orange/garnet shellac flakes that must be around 40+ years, old at least...... using ethanol it takes longer to dissolve then new fresh flakes, but works fine. It was given to me in a sealed metal (like an old coffee can, but square), US Army marked, gallon can about 20+ years ago.
Shellac is a miracle finish ..can be used in so many ways..A great traditional finish. Thank you Joel for making these products so available.
03/24/2021 Dan Whittet
This is exactly how Postmaster Louis Dejoy wants business to respond. After manipulating USPS service to make it difficult if not impossible for the self financing government agency to perform at a high level, business is driven to Fed Ex where he holds a financial interest. Write your representative, DeJoy must go!
A strong and high functioning USPS is critical to democracy!!
I have no idea! Like you we have successfully tested very old shellac and it's been fine. We have also tested two or three year old shellac, that was poorly stored, and it wasn't. Plastic pages are not impermeable. Hot weather also speeds badness up.
You are exactly right. I don't know if Dejoy and friends are doing this to explicitly destroy the USPS or just have malevolent incompetence. I hope they get fired soon. But, for some reason, customers still seem to want to be able to order stuff and get it. So in spite of our desire to support the USPS, we can't always.
03/25/2021 Ethan Chitty
I know you did a test a few years ago, finding that agitating during mixing enabled using older shellac, but found that some shellac did entirely polymerize over time. I'm curious though, did you try grinding that material and then remixing? Seems that level of breakdown would return it to a state where it could then be dissolved again. Otherwise, finished shellac wouldn't be able to be dissolved by alcohol on old surfaces.
03/26/2021 Joe Maday
Luckily I have had no problems with the 40+ year old orange/garnet shellac ( used in first coats to add color)..I do break-up the "clumps" but I don't grind it. does take over nite to get a good mix and there always is a small amount that does not dissolve and I discard....I always strain before using....
I have had issues with super blonde and patina shellac that was 3-4 years old not drying "Hard". I wonder if the additional processing and "clarifying" had something to do with it???........Shellac, on older surfaces can be dissolved (or damaged) with alcohol but the ability to re-harden I think is compromised...But ..That's my limited experience...I'm guessing the ability to off-gas any alcohol or water is the problem .... from being polymerized with age or improper storage....Bottom line. You purchase from a knowledgeable dealer(Joel), store properly, apply properly and the results should be fine.
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The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the blog's author and guests and in no way reflect the views of Tools for Working Wood.